While I have some remarks published in the report you’ve all received, I wanted to depart from that and use my minute or two here to comment on some of the details of the year 2020. Starting March 13 last year, our world went into a spin nobody could have forecasted. At the Chamber, we were busy planning our 50 plus events for the year – from networking activities, monthly luncheons, ceo breakfasts, and the biggies like Business Expo, Business Awards, and of course the Commercial Street Night Market. Instead, we had two breakfasts and one luncheon done by that time. Fortunately, we were given a brief reprieve in the summer and received the PHO’s blessing to hold our golf tournament – much to the delight, no – glee — of our 80 golfers. Staff mentioned it was like watching kids AT the first snowfall of the year!

 

We shifted gears upon discovering that what people wanted most was information and knowledge which saw us enter into “uber communications” mode. We produced 13 weekly webinars from March to June interviewing the people who mattered the most – government & community leaders, and the folks who would help businesses the most in securing support funding to help them survive what we didn’t know enough about to know what was coming next. We increased our NewsLine enews from a single issue with five stories a week to a daily issue with twenty-five stories a week and our readership went up 5,000%. We pulled off a virtual Business Awards show with the help of Steve Patterson of CBC’s “The Debaters”. Our workload in government advocacy went sky high as we collaborated with the BC Chamber and provincial ministries to ensure business had the best chance to survive and thrive. And we ended the year on a positive note financially.

 

Thanks to Chamber staff who really moved fluidly amidst all the changes we needed to make, to our contractors who did the same, to volunteers who persevered, to our colleagues and partners in business and government. Especially to civic leaders in governance and the bureaucracy as we worked together on the Health and Housing Task Force, Economic Development Task Force, the reformation of Tourism Nanaimo and development of a new BIA.

 

Among the changes we went through, perhaps the most significant was the board’s decision to look towards the future and our needs for space which resulted in the sale of our building in early 2021 with the intent to purchase property in the city center with proceeds from the sale and make an equity investment in downtown revitalization. While the sale has been completed, the Chamber will not be moving until we’ve found the best space possible that will allow the Chamber to continue serving its members while also paying respect to the membership and past board members and leaders who created the legacy we enjoy now.

 

Kim Smythe, President & CEO

ceo@nanaimochamber.bc.ca

Chamber Executives from around BC met on Tuesday in our bi-weekly Chamber Coffee Chat. Of course, the main topic of conversation was the announcement by the Premier around new restrictions and closures – restaurants and pubs being the most controversial and challenging for all communities. We determined that we needed to speak on behalf of the industry and the tens of thousands of workers impacted so suddenly and drastically by the province’s announcements providing about eight hours of notice of the 100% restriction on indoor dining.

 

The frustration of business owners and operators could be felt in one of our member’s voices as he described that Monday morning he had placed an order for $11,000 for wine necessary to satisfy those dining out for Easter. The week previous he had place substantial orders for deliveries of fresh foods for later this week to hold him over the long weekend. I’m sure this story was repeated thousands of times by restauranteurs over the past couple of days. Unfortunately for most in BC, patios are not an alternative at this time of year. In Nanaimo, the Fire Department refused to permit propane powered heaters on any patio with a covering which would have been the only alternative during the winter months.

 

The repeated and sudden nature of closures and restrictions that provide no notice for the industry to adjust staffing, provision procurement, and credit/cash flow arrangements. The industry is operating in very stressful times since allowed to re-open to reduced capacities late last spring. In our community, a number have closed their doors permanently. I’m sure Chambers across BC would say the same things about their communities.

 

We concluded through this discussion that three things should be considered going forward, and we hope you’ll share this with government to advocate for more consideration for the industry:

  • Businesses impacted (restaurants and pubs) need to be provided with guidance on how to seek support and funding to ensure they don’t lose their businesses. There must be recognition of the sudden impact on an industry already struggling under difficult conditions. Perhaps a special fund separate and distinct from the existing BC Recovery Plan funding.
  • There needs to be more transparency and clarity around the potential for changing conditions on businesses, industries and sectors that are in fragile or threatened territory already. Lack of communication around the decision-making process is resulting in mistrust in the process. We need more clarity, we need to know why, and we need to know how we can properly address the areas of concern for our region. (IE – is it in fact restaurants in all of BC where we are seeing the spike?)
  • Many Chambers would encourage reconsideration of a strategic, territorial approach when considering industry-wide closures. On Vancouver Island, our case count is fortunately very low and the chances of anybody ‘region-hopping’ for the sake of a dinner out would be extremely unlikely. Similar situations exist in the North and the Kootenays among other regions.

 

With the number of people living paycheque to paycheque or tipjar to tipjar, this situation is close to overwhelming for local economies. We can only hope that three weeks really does end up being three weeks!

 

For inquiries, reach out to:

Kim Smythe, President & CEO

ceo@nanaimochamber.bc.ca

 

In 2017 the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association suspended operations and businesses downtown quickly discovered the difference between having a group functioning to support business success and having nobody leading the way.

Since then, different individuals, merchant groups, and the Chamber of Commerce have been contributing their energy to advocate for downtown businesses creating events and promotions to build traffic downtown. Although helpful, the lack of an overall plan, consistency of effort, and focused energy does not serve the needs of downtown businesses well enough.

In 2019, the Chamber began working with merchants to organize a new non-profit society made up of downtown business operators and property owners. That status was granted by the Province in May of 2020 and the organization has applied to the city for BIA status.

The new BIA will:

  • Become the dedicated, independent voice of downtown speaking through a Board of Directors elected at a grass roots level.
  • Work with existing, neighbouring downtown business associations and organizations in partnerships for the common good.
  • Seek funding in addition to the money raised from the BIA levy through partnerships, sponsorships and cooperative campaigns. The BIA will NOT be seeking a partnership with the city to match the levy with taxpayer’s funds.
  • Work with specialists and contractors to undertake promotional programming, events, community development and safety and security.

Now it’s up to downtown property owners to decide if the BIA will go ahead. They have the choice of supporting a small levy on their properties to financially support the BIA. Keeping the number of participants high, keeps the individual levy low. Funds collected would be reinvested wholly in improving the chances of success for downtown businesses. Programming and planning for downtown would focus on attracting shoppers and visitors by providing attractions and events to animate downtown streets. Property owners primarily download the additional costs of the levy onto their tenants who benefit from increased traffic and sales, and an improved downtown environment.

Downtown’s challenges won’t be resolved without the commitment of this grassroots organization, and certainly not without the resources a BIA can put in the hands of this new independent group looking out for downtown. Offer your encouragement to downtown merchants by supporting a new BIA for downtown Nanaimo and, if you’re a downtown property owner, support a brighter future for downtown by supporting a new BIA.

Partnership to tackle Nanaimo homelessness begins implementation action

Nanaimo, B.C – The City of Nanaimo’s Council led Health and Housing Task Force, which was established by Nanaimo City Council this year, in partnership with the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition, and United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island have joined forces with Turner Strategies and HelpSeeker to support system change initiatives to address current community challenges relating to homelessness.

READ THE FULL NEWS RELEASE HERE …  News release_Coordinated Access_NHC CoN

 

NANAIMO – October 5, 2019

NANAIMO CHAMBER ANNOUNCES CANDIDATE ADDED TO FORUM

The Nanaimo Chamber announced it will be adding Jennifer Clarke, People’s Party of Canada, to its Candidates Forum for the October 21 federal election.

“This completes our efforts to secure representation from all the parties in the House in including Bob Chamberlin, NDP; Michelle Corfield, Liberals; John Hirst, Conservatives; and Paul Manly of the Green Party. Ian Holmes of Nanaimo News Now will moderate.”

The Forum will be held in Beban Park Social Centre on Thursday, October 10 with the doors opening for a Candidate Meet and Greet at 5:30 pm. The debate among the candidates will begin at 7:00 pm. Questions will be accepted in advance at info@nanaimochamber.bc.ca and from the floor. The event will be live-streamed via the Chamber Facebook Page.

Smythe continued, “The event is made possible through the financial support of Vancouver Island University, Canadian Home Builders Association, the National Association of Federal Retirees, and United Way plus our media supporters”.

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For more information:

KIM SMYTHE: 250-756-1191

NANAIMO – September 11, 2019

NANAIMO CHAMBER ANNOUNCES FEDERAL ELECTION CANDIDATES’ FORUM

The Nanaimo Chamber announces it will be holding a Candidates Forum for the October 21 federal election announced today.

“We now have confirmation from the four candidates that will be attending,” according to Kim Smythe, Chamber CEO, “This would include Bob Chamberlin, NDP; Michelle Corfield, Liberals; John Hirst, Conservatives; and current Member of Parliament Paul Manly of the Green Party. Ian Holmes of Nanaimo News Now will moderate.”

The Forum will be held in Beban Park Social Centre on Thursday, October 10 with the doors opening for a Candidate Meet and Greet at 5:30 pm. The debate among the candidates will begin at 7:00 pm. Questions will be accepted in advance at info@nanaimochamber.bc.ca and during the event. The event will be live-streamed.

Smythe continued, “The cost of these events continues to be a challenge for the Chamber so we’re very appreciative of the financial support offered by Vancouver Island University, Canadian Home Builders Association, and the National Association of Federal Retirees plus our media supporters”.

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For more information:

KIM SMYTHE: 250-756-1191

Click here to download PDF.

5MinsforBiz

TaxAttackonSmallBiz

template letter_August 25

Watch the Video Meeting with Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce

Businesses across Canada are speaking out against proposed federal tax changes that seriously threaten the future of small businesses, the medical and dental professions, farmers, and family businesses. The government has set a deadline of October 2, 2017 for feedback.

We’re inviting businesses throughout the region to provide us with case statements of how these changes might affect their businesses and their lives. We’ll be sharing this with Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson, and the NDP’s Critic for Small Business & Tourism, Gord Johns Member of Parliament for Courtenay-Alberni. We are also working in concert with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce who have an action plan in place targeting the Minister of Finance.

Here are links to white papers outlining the issues (prepared by MNP) for more information, a link to a news segment on Global television, a link to the video of our round table event with Sheila Malcolmson on September 6, a PDF of a Canadian Chamber statement, the Nanaimo Chamber media release issued September 8 and a template letter you can use to submit your concerns to your local MP, or submit to the Chamber to use in our communications with the federal government through our MP and to the Canadian Chamber to bolster their efforts on behalf of thousands of Canadian businesses.

Summary Paper – Department of Finance Proposed Changes for Canadian Entrepreneurs

http://www.mnp.ca/en/posts/department-of-finance-proposed-changes-for-canadian-entrepreneurs

Income Sprinkling: How the Proposed Legislation Impacts You and Your Business

http://www.mnp.ca/en/posts/income-sprinkling

Tax Rule Changes: Impacts on Passive Investments, You and Your Business

http://www.mnp.ca/en/posts/tax-rule-changes-impacts-on-passive-investments-you-and-your-business

Global News:

http://globalnews.ca/video/3723450/prime-minister-trudeau-wont-back-down-on-controversial-tax-changes

 

 

 

The Chamber of Commerce Position on the City’s Core Service Review

September 13, 2016

On September 12, Nanaimo City Council held an e-Town Hall with residents on the subject of the Core Service Review conducted over a six month period earlier this year. This community consultation was complemented by meetings with community stakeholders to provide their input to Council the next day in the Board Room of the SARC Building. Following is the Chamber’s presentation to Mayor, Council and senior staff.

First off, the Chamber has pointed out to Council that we feel that the conduct of this Review comes at a very good time in Nanaimo’s growth and development. Some people say that timing is everything and this is very much the case with the Review. You now have a clear window for implementation with enough of a Council term left to make an impact without the Review becoming a political hot potato.

I thought the point was very well made last night that Council members and staff are not taking a ‘slash & burn’ approach, but that they are examining priorities, seeking efficiencies and becoming better at exercising their fiscal and fiduciary duties. This, in turn, delivers greater value for the taxpayer’s dollar through the enhanced service of Council members, through improved services in some areas and more efficient services in others. I believe this came across very well during the e-town hall. And I also believe it appeals to the existing business community while adding to the list of reasons why businesses would be attracted to locate in Nanaimo, when we are seen as having a fair and well-managed tax regime. One more arrow in each of the quivers of the Chamber of Commerce for business retention and expansion and the NEDC for business attraction and growth.

The conversation touched on the topic of wages and I think one Councillor made a very good point that the Core Review wasn’t conducted to remove people from their jobs, nor to cut the earning capacity of its work force; but to make sure the work force was focused on the right things in the right order to give us the most bang for our buck.

The Chamber urges the continued expeditious strategic implementation of recommendations. I would like to now speak to a few of the highlights briefly.

Strategic Plan (1.c.1 – strategic direction Council actions) – already implemented and we have spoken in strong support of your work on this and the list of strategic priorities during a Council meeting (last e-town hall) and in discussions with individual councillors.

Strategic Plan (1.a.1-5 – the city’s strategic priorities and staff actions) – Agree that these initiatives are well prioritized.

Community Partnerships (9.C.1 – concerning NEDC’s direction) – We stand ready to work with the NEDC to help them optimize their positive impact on our economy by bolstering a healthy business climate and having effective action plans to meet our community’s goals.

Community Partnerships (9.C.2 – regarding the fate of matching funding for the DNBIA) – A sensible approach that I think can be managed by this organization and I would hope that ‘project funding’ wouldn’t be limited to the amount of funds available currently as the ‘matching grant’. I am always mindful of the rationale for forming this organization described in the Downtown Plan of 2008 which identified a set of needs required to redevelop the city centre in the most efficient way possible and it was determined that the ‘bureaucracy’ was not going to fit that criteria. The DNBIA is able to bring the right combination of expertise and volunteer energy to the table to have done a very commendable job since its inception.

Community Partnerships (9.C.3 – regarding future plans for the VICC) – The Chamber is a strong supporter of the VICC, especially so when it is effective in attracting meetings and conferences away from other communities, while providing a unique venue for community events that won’t fit elsewhere. We are happy to collaborate and enjoy a very positive and effective working relationship with management there. There are events that we do which are simply too large and demanding on a venue to do anywhere else. Very simply, that business would not be done in our community were it not for that facility. By my read of the Core Review and the further report on VICC, the City appears committed over the long term while leaving room for improvement and further support. Kudos to you for following through on this.

All in all, the Core Service Review gives direction and leadership to Council and Staff to help in decision-making to operate this City in a fashion similar to the way members of our business community run their businesses – as tightly, as productively, and as efficiently as possible so that, at the end of the day, we can say we all did our best and can now say “job well done”.

CONTACT: Kim Smythe – 250-756-1191
ceo@nanaimochamber.bc.ca